By Charles Sercombe
As expected, a majority of Hamtramck School Boardmembers voted to outsource the jobs of custodians and bus drivers.
In a special meeting last Thursday, after The Review went to press, the School Board reconsidered a prior vote to contract out the 18 jobs of custodians. Boardmember Magdalena Srodek had voted against the move a week earlier, but then had second-thoughts.
She brought the issue back up for reconsideration and voted this time to privatize the jobs.
Voting in opposition were Boardmembers Hedy and Al Shulgon, who are married, and newly-appointed Boardmember Evan Major.
The Shulgons have said they are against privatizing, but Hedy Shulgon agreed to contract out the work of bus drivers. She said that was an exception because most of the drivers are part-time and the new contractor promised them all full-time jobs at the same, or even higher, salaries.
Al Shulgon said during the vote he is sticking to his principles.
“Maybe I’m old-school, but I can sleep tonight,” he said about voting his conscience.
Major told The Review after the vote that he agreed with Hedy Shulgon on the bus driver vote, but the custodian vote raised a number of issues.
“It’s systematic of a much bigger problem than just our district,” he said.
Namely, that problem, he said has to do with Gov. Rick Snyder slashing school funding and forcing districts to make drastic cuts. He said that has created a “hostile” environment to conduct the business of education.
He said he was also not sure how contracting out jobs would “stabilize the district.”
District Superintendent Tom Niczay said it comes down to dollars and cents.
“There’s no joy in privatizing,” he said. “It’s just a matter of what can we afford.”
With the recent outsourcing of security, bus drivers and custodians, Niczay said that will result in a savings of $600,000. He still has a way to go to reduce a $3.7 million budget deficit.
There will be more cuts to consider. In February, a presentation will be made by a contractor to take over the services of secretaries.
Niczay has been negotiating with the teachers for several months on salary cuts, and he said he will be addressing cuts to the salaries of administrators.
Asked if the budget can be balanced with all of these cuts, he said: “We’ll get there.”
The issue of contracting out the jobs of custodians may not be over. David Lee Harrison, a custodian for 16 years, said the district violated labor and contract laws.
He said the union is looking into getting a court injunction to block the move, among other actions.